This Ash Wednesday was one for the record books.Educators at Staten Island's Catholic Schools have a lot to talk about tomorrow, as the world looked on to the last time Pope Benedict XVI would say Mass in his current capacity. This is the first time a pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years due to failing health and other issues. Next month, the 85 year-old pontiff retires. His resignation has the world eagerly awaiting the news of his expected successor.
A capacity crowd in St Peter's Basilica gave Pope Benedict a thunderous standing ovation on Wednesday night at an emotional last public Mass before he stands down at the end of the month, added MSN.
"Thank you. Now, let's return to prayer," the 85-year-old pontiff said, bringing an end to several minutes of applause that clearly moved him, adds the internet report.
In an unusual gesture, bishops took off their distinctive hats in a sign of respect and a few of them wept, stated MSN.
Earlier Wednesday, the pope explained that he had reached his decision to resign after prayer led him to conclude it would be for the best for the Catholic Church, added the story. "I have done this in full freedom for the good of the church, after much prayer and having examined my conscience before God," Benedict said at his weekly general audience speech, according to an English transcript from the Holy See press office at the Vatican.
On Monday, when he revealed the news publicly, Benedict, 85, said that the papacy required "strength of mind and body," and that his health had deteriorated, adds the account.
There will be only one pope
The Vatican says the pope will likely not be named pope emeritus to avoid having two popes at once, NBC's Anne Thompson reports, according to MSN.
Later, the Vatican revealed that the pope had a pacemaker installed 10 years ago. In Wednesday's remarks ahead of the Mass, the pontiff said he felt uplifted by the outpouring of support that followed his surprising resignation announcement, adds the report.
"Thank all of you for the love and for the prayers with which you have accompanied me," he told the packed general audience hall. "In these days, which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer -- your prayers."
Benedict also said he had made his decision "knowing full well the seriousness of this act, but also realizing that I am no longer able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength which it demands."
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Reuters that on the pope's last day in office, February 28, Benedict would receive cardinals in a farewell meeting. Afterward, his ring of office, used to seal official documents, will be destroyed, as is traditionally done when a pope dies, added MSN.
A very quiet role
The pope is to live in a four-story building attached to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery inside the Vatican, something that the church's senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, told The Associated Press was significant, added MSN.
"It is something that he has wanted to do for a while," Burke said. "But I think it also suggests that his role is going to be a very quiet one, and that is important so you don't have a situation of ... two different popes at the same time, and one influencing the other. I think the obvious thing is when he says retirement, it really means retiring."
As for the soon-to-be ex-pope's new name, Burke told the AP that Benedict would most likely be referred to as "Bishop of Rome, emeritus" as opposed to "Pope Emeritus," adds MSN.
Other Vatican officials said it would probably be up to the next pope to decide Benedict's new title, and wouldn't exclude that he might still be called "Your Holiness" as a courtesy, much as retired presidents are often referred to as "President," the AP reported.
It is unclear if he will keep the name Benedict, which he took on becoming pope, or return to being Joseph Ratzinger again, added MSN.
Immediately after his resignation, Benedict will spend some time at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lake Albano in the hills south of Rome, where he has spent his summer vacations reading and writing, the AP said, as reported in MSN.
Afterward, he will return to the building in the Vatican's grounds, which was built in 1992 on the site of a former residence for the its gardeners, the AP reported. The building, which was occupied by an order of nuns until October, has a garden, where the nuns would tend to the lemon and orange trees as well as the roses, added MSN.
The pope's older brother, Georg Ratzinger, confirmed that Benedict has no intention of returning to live in his native Bavaria. "You don't transplant an old tree," Ratzinger said. In other words, the very public Church statesman and leader will end his days in peaceful tranquility unfettered by the ins and outs of politics, as he prepares to step down from the most important role in the catholic church at the end of the month.Staten Islanders, like the rest of the world, await the news of his successor as www.examiner.com continues to report on this continuing story.